2019 Summer Reading: Escape into Reality – Nonfiction Adventures

2019 Summer Reading: Escape into Reality With Four Nonfiction Adventures

 

Today I’m featuring a quartet of absolutely wonderful books that will suck you into adventure, mystery, and places you’ve never imagined you’d be. You’ll meet a colorful, dangerous, interesting, lovely, and witty characters. Best of all it is all true.

Good nonfiction is a wonderful thing. I think about some of my favorites that I could read again and again and again. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness is an autobiographical work by Edward Abbey is one book that should be on every book list and every book shelf. Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez moved my soul. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson made me think and also made me laugh almost unlike any book I’ve ever read.

Copies of these books, even those now out of print, can be found in libraries, on Amazon, B&N, eBay, your local used book store, and other online outlets. If you’re having trouble finding any of them let me know and I’ll help you look.

 

Attending Marvels – A Patagonian Journal

By George Gaylord Simpson

In 1930 George Taylor Simpson traveled to Argentina, was shot at, had a few exciting adventures, finally made his way to Patagonia, and dug for dinosaur bones.

This is on my list of top ten favorite books ever. Simpson will charm you, enlighten you, and inspire you. Attending Marvels is a marvel of a book. Look it up. Find a copy. Read it. It isn’t a long book so it is perfect for summer reading.

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The Lost City of the Monkey God

By Douglas Preston

Years ago I read a book called Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Then I read Reliquary. THEN I read one of my favorite books by the pair, and favorite books by anyone – The Cabinet of Curiosities. Like many I was hooked on the adventures of Agent Pendergast and the many other characters Preston and Child created. I can’t wait to read their next book which involved the Donner Party.

A few years ago I read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston. It was about American student Amanda Knox who had been accused of murder in Italy. This was my first test of nonfiction by Douglas Preston.

I was so excited when The Lost City of the Monkey God came out. Unfortunately half way through the book I lost The Lost City of the Monkey God. Fast forward to this year and I found it. I will finish it next week while I’m on a road trip.

But what is this book about?

In 2012 Preston joined a team of scientists to find The Lost City of the Monkey God, The White City, in the Amazon jungle. The story covers stories of explorers, interesting characters, snakes (this will scare the jeebers out of you), rain, rain, rain, amazing discoveries, bugs, and a mysterious illness. Oh, I forgot, TECHNOLOGY. Finding a lost city in a jungle is no small task. Take my word for it. This is a fun book.

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Eldorado – Adventures in the Path of Empire

By Bayard Taylor

I love this book.

In 1849 a young reporter (and poet) named Bayard Taylor left New York, traveled to California by the way of Panama (pre-canal), and wrote about it. He wasn’t looking for gold. Taylor was looking for stories. With brutal honesty, detail, humor, and an eye for detail he covers everything from the journey to California, to life in the mining camps, the new and growing cities of San Francisco and Sacramento, Volcanos, Rain, Society in California, robbers, a trip to Mexico, and more.

This is a brilliant first hand account of the California Gold Rush unlike anything you thought you knew about one of the most amazing events in the history of the world.

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Empire Express – Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

By David Howard Bain

This year is the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. Empire Express was recommended by a docent at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, CA. Believe me, that if a docent from the California State Railroad Museum recommends a book it will be good.

Empire Express is over seven hundred pages and covers a lot of territory. I haven’t read it yet, but what I’ve seen (thumbing through it) looks great. I know this book will be as exciting as the big personalities it covers. It is an adventure, a social history, a story about dreams, heartbreak, triumph, and how the United States was forever changed.

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No matter what you’re interested in, or what you like to read, I encourage everyone to try something new, go out of your comfort zones, take a chance, and seek out new adventures through books.

I’ll be back next Monday with more 2019 Summer Reading.

If you have any suggestions for non-fiction books please leave them in the comments. Please share!

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman.

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: I’ll Return to You

They’d numbered many – the qualities needed to do the job. Passions and desires for secrets and more. So was the life of a spy. You give and in return you receive and take and steal away like a ghost in the night, leaving an empty safe and a broken heart behind. It was a good gig if you could get it. It was her life and passion.

In the dark of night she left him drugged in a deep sleep of happy dreams. She’d made sure of that. Still feeling his touch on her skin she dressed in absolute silence. In her bag were the documents she needed, along with photographs and other mementos, including a packet of love letters that she would keep for herself.

She might never find a love like his again. It was one of those loves that was once in a lifetime. It was the kind of love that would last forever.

He was the most well ordered and controlled man she’d ever met. His soul as full of adventure. He valued perfection. Best of all, he could exquisitely heat up the night unlike any other man she’d ever met. He was someone who’d never settle or compromise.

When he awoke hours later he reached for her, but that side of the bed was empty and cold.

Later that morning he was told she was dead. It had been an accident. That day he thought his life would end. He wanted to die. It was almost unbearable, but he made it through.

Ten years later he married a lovely, kind woman with a wicked sense of humor. They had two children. It was a lot of work and crazy living with a family and kids. Life was good, as it should be. In fact it was more than good. It was amazing.

Still, every time his wife was late or one of the kids didn’t call on time he had that feeling of dread and panic come up in his soul. He never told them, but it was always there. He couldn’t lose them. He couldn’t go through that again.

One afternoon he reached into the pocket of an old coat and found a note. It was in the script of his long lost love.

I’ll return to you.

He was beyond that. He was beyond dreams of seeing her again. He was beyond hope she was alive. He was beyond stupid thoughts. He was beyond the anger he had towards her. He was beyond the grief and the love and the memories so sweet of their time together. But something triggered his heart and he could feel a tear falling down his cheek. It was alright to mourn. It was normal. It was natural to feel and love and remember. There was no crime in that. It took nothing away from his life now.

Yet how many times had he caught himself asking “What if?”

He took the dog for a walk by the river, like he did each day.

On the bank, near where the geese always rested, stood a stunning woman with flowing gold curls and sky blue eyes. It was her. It was a his past and his dreams and his sorrow.

She turned towards him. “Hello Rob.”

The dog ran up to her wagging it’s tail. He froze.

“I was told you were dead,” he said barely able to get the words out.

“You were told wrong. I had to go. I know, I know, I know you must be angry but let me explain…”

He stood listening as she told him about adventures in a world he couldn’t imagine anymore. It sounded like more of a movie script or a spy novel than anything in his current life. It sounded like his old life.

Then she said, “I know everything about you. I’ve been keeping track the past twenty years.”

“That’s sort of creepy. I’m sure it was plenty boring compared to the life we used to have.” He watched his dog run down the beach then looked back to her. “Why did you come back?”

“For you of course. We can continue our adventure. You can get your life back. I still love you.”

He stood there thinking of all the times he would have given anything for one last chance to talk to her. Just one last chance to hold her. One last chance to start over with her and change the past.

Then he stuck his hand in his pocket and found a sticky mess of peanut butter and jelly. His daughter would always chew and lick the darned things a few times and end up with a mess over everything.

“I’m not that guy anymore. I’m different.” he said.

“How?” She stood with her hands on her hips. He thought she was still the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. “How are you different?”

“I have a wet gooey half eaten peanut butter sandwich in my pocket, and it doesn’t bother me.” Then he smiled and gave her a kiss on the cheek and started up the trail back home.

 

~ end

 

 

Burning Question #45: What’s under your kilt?

Animals have been hanging around on Earth for about 560 million years. During that time we’ve seen a lot of critters come and go. From humongous dinosaurs to Neanderthals some failed to make it in their pure original form.

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Be my Neanderthal baby.

Others fared better. Opossums, elephant shrews (I posted a nice little video of one here), crocodiles, horseshoe crabs, snapping turtles, and a multitude of animals are still around after millions of years, just hanging out, doing their thing. In fact, it seems like every year someone finds some weird shark, fish, or bug that hasn’t been seen since T-Rex was the baddest ass in town.

Many creatures have extremely curious background. If you’re a human with blue eyes you more than likely have some Neanderthal DNA in your system. Some dogs can be traced back to wolves, and then there are Pugs. You gotta love them all. Of course I have to mention Vampires who, many thousands of years ago, jumped up a little bit higher on the old evolutionary scale.

Then there are those creatures few have seen and nobody has any fossil or otherwise evidence such as Sasquatch and his buddy the Chupacabra, and of course Mermaids. Who wouldn’t like to find a Mermaid?.

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And last but not least, there are some creatures who never died but are just hiding, and waiting….

Which brings us to BURNING QUESTION #45, with it’s misleading title.

YES, we are going to Scotland to solve a MYSTERY. However, that mystery is not to find out what is under Hamish’s kilt.

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We’re not here to find out what is under Hamish’s kilt, though we’re mighty curious.

We’re talking about Nessie, otherwise know as the LOCH NESS MONSTER.

As we all know the Loch Ness Monster or Nessie is a creature said to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. Nessie is often described as large in size with a long neck and one or more humps protruding from the water. My husband Teddy and I still make jokes about it due to the fact that once after too many glasses of wine I called her the Lost Neck Monster.” We’ve caller her Neckie ever since.

1933 photos were taken of the creature (since proved to be bunk) and since then even more photos have been taken, not to mention hundreds of documentaries, books, etc. . Evidence of Neckie, I mean Nessie is a mixed bag of fiction and a lot of stuff that just might be true.

Seriously folks, I’m a Vampire so I’m always open to this kind of stuff. I asked Tellias about it and he just shrugged and told me to go find a Selkie. Tellias never tells me anything until he is ready to tell me. On the other hand Selkies are as real as I am. But back to the Scotland…

I always like the idea of Loch Ness because it is a lake that looks like a lot of beautiful lakes in Northern California (where I live.) Loch Ness is also extremely DEEP, which makes it mysterious. Plus there are castles. Everyone likes castles. And everyone also like SEA MONSTERS.

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For centuries people have been seeing weird things in Loch Ness. Some have even taken photos, which then turned out to be fake. But you never know. I know you WANT to believe something huge and amazing is down there in that cold dark water.

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Could there really be something living in the depths of Loch Ness, in Scotland?

Burning Question #45: Is the Loch Ness Monster Really A Well Hidden Dinosaur?

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Want more information about big mysterious things in fresh water? Check out this list I “borrowed” from Wikipedia. Well-known lake monsters include:

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Loch Ness, Scotland. By the way, a Loch is a Lake.

Now that you’ve pondered another BURNING QUESTION and rocked your world, please share your comments, opinions, possum stories, tell us about that bad date, or about the time YOU saw a Bigfoot, Mothman, or a dinosaur. Hey, don’t laugh. I saw a dinosaur last time I was driving near the Utah/Colorado border. I even took a photo.

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Yes, I saw this right in the middle of the day and took this photo. Believe it or not! I can’t make this shit up.

One more thing… I want to thank Mandy White for suggesting this question.

Thanks everyone for dropping by. See you next week for Burning Question #46.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Musings on the Space, Writing, Vampires and Spring

amazing stories guy with 2 girls

 

 

 

Yesterday I found myself inspired to write science fiction.

 

Red Planet: Chapter One

Sure we all volunteered with a capital V but we didn’t know we’d be stuck a billion miles from home with a bunch of assholes.

 

Alright, so much for that.

But it makes me think about SPACE and traveling there.

If you’re a Werewolf and you go to another planet, say Mars, will you turn into a wolf when there is a full moon or Mars or will you keep to our own Earthly full moon cycle? Or will you turn into a wolf with green fur? Or will you not turn into a wolf at all? Or will you just die alone on a barren red rock with a bunch of people who don’t understand you?

Space travel for Vampires is impractical to say the least. If you go to Mars, from what I’ve heard, you can’t come back. Maybe after a while, but right now there is not technology to come back. There isn’t technology to get there either but… anyway…

Say you’re a Vampire and you go to Mars. There is a limited food source, maybe a dozen other people at most to start. I’m going to assume that nobody has children up there. So your food supply ages and dies, or just dies without aging. But they die. You’re left cold, alone and hungry forever.

Yes, more people could be sent up to the Red Planet but that is providing the budget holds. While you’re up on Mars all sorts of things can happen down on Earth including budget cuts. Nobody in SciFi movies talk about budgets. I bet Capt. Kirk had a budget. Budgets aren’t sexy or violent (usually) so nobody thinks about them. But budgets are real.

So meanwhile down on Earth the budgets are cut and everybody is left on Mars high and dry. If you’re a Vampire don’t go to Mars. Space exploration budgets are in a sorry state. It is unfortunate but true.

On the other hand if you find yourself on a luxury starship with five hundred others I’d say go for it. There will be big budgets and plenty to eat.

Again, this is why I don’t write Science Fiction because I can’t keep my mind on the science part. I understand and respect the science, but I’m more of a paranormal romance kind of gal when it comes to making up stories.

I suppose Ghosts could go up into space if they wanted to. Witches in space? Maybe. Oh I’m sure there are hundreds of Space Witch stories out there. I think Lush may have a Space Witch bath bomb.

Amazing Stories Naked people oh no

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was looking at the stars last night. The ambient light seemed dimmer than usual so the stars seemed to shine brighter. When I look at the stars they are so far off but at the same time the night sky is so familiar. It is always there and always ours. It is whatever dream and vision we want it to be. It is proof that we aren’t alone.

I know the constellations that I was taught as a child – the same ones that the Greeks and others thought up centuries ago. My brother Aaron knows all of them.

We are so excited to visit a dusty gray ball and a huge red rock in the sky, but nobody, that we know of, wants to visit us on our beautiful blue ball that teems with variety and life. That might be because most of the planet is occupied by the assholes I mentioned earlier.

Then I look out my window at my yard full of citrus trees in full bloom with sweet orange and lemon blossoms. I can hear the bees and humming birds going about their business. The larger oak trees grown around as if protecting their smaller cousins. A calico cat sits in the doorway listening to the song birds and thinking about lunch. Who wouldn’t want to be here? I’ll make coffee.

Adventure in a Cup

Adventure in a Cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

FLASH UPDATE: About two hours after I posted this Science Friday featured, what else but, MARS and people traveling to Mars and the budget. I kid you not, I had no idea, but I proved my point. It was pretty interesting. They also discussed water on other planets/moons. CLICK HERE for the Science Friday story.

Southern Mars

Southern Mars

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World

Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World

The end of the world had come and gone a long time ago. Of course I wouldn’t dare remind Captain Sandy of that extraordinary fact. He stood in the basket of the airship, hands on the control, the tails of his jacket blowing in the wind.

When the end of the world came the evil and the damned were gathered up and taken down to Hell. The pure and righteous were led up to Heaven in a golden white light.

That left the artists and writers, along with a lot of musicians, wine makers, computer programmers and antiques dealers. Of course there were others, but nobody that lacked a certain amount of creative or innovative spirit. One must have spirit and imagination to survive when the world ends without you.

It worked for me. Well, at least most of the time.

I honestly have to say, the world had become way too serious. I adjusted my goggles and scarf as I looked down on the tire fire that had been burning for the past 100 years. Adjusting the leather hood on my cat, I took him out of his basket to take a look. My five year old son Aaron stood on his toes to get a look as I held tight to the back of his jacket. I must have been a sight, boy in one hand, cat in the other.

Life was an adventure to be savored and enjoyed. It was a destroyed world being built up by those of us with visions of beauty and wonder. Captain Sandy always said this was Heaven. Of course I never told him otherwise. It was Heaven to be in the arms of my husband at night and feel the touch of his skin on mine, that is until I’d run my hand over the deep scars on his back. I called him my fallen angel. He would just laugh and kiss me as only an angel could kiss. Maybe it was Heaven for him since he was now dead, but I will never know unless I die too and find him there.

Once when I was younger my brother and I found some old movies in where everyone at the end of the world were driving big trucks and dune buggies as they shot anyone they came across. There were zombies and crazy fucks of all sorts fighting for the last clean water. It seemed they had unlimited amounts of fuel and bullets. No word of steam, solar and silent airships.

My brother and I laughed at the stupidity of it all. That was not our world. Ours was a world to create without hesitation or critical review. Our poets were considered as important as our politicians. Our sense of style always outweighed our sense of practicality. At least we kept telling ourselves that – all of us did as we banded together trying to give off an air of hope and strength. We created our own world going back to a time that didn’t really exist, where all things were possible and the modern world was still a beautiful dream.

Captain Sandy asked me what I was thinking that could have me looking so serious.

I told him and he just shook his head.

“Life isn’t a theater play like you make it out to be my dear. There are dangerous things out in dark areas of stench and smoke that would enslave us and make us into meals if they could. You’ve been protected in your leather and velvet bustle dresses and fanciful thoughts. It’s a good thing to be ignorant of the world but it is dangerous in ways you can’t imagine.”

“Captain,” I said, “you forget that the shadows took my husband. I take flights of fancy so I won’t fall out of the sky and die of sorrow.”

He turned and gave me a quick smile. Despite the dark pattern of scars on the left side of his face the Captain was still a handsome man with a dazzling smile. All the women were quick to notice him.

“Why are you alone Captain?”

“I’m not.”

“No wife or children?”

“I had a wife. She vanished when the world ended. I never knew if she went up or down or just vanished to dust. Who knows. The bitch could still be around somewhere.”

“So you’re alone,” I said.

“Just free of my wife.” He said nothing else then took off his hat and tied his long prematurely silver hair back with a ribbon he’d pulled from his coat pocket. “So, did you like movies back in the time before?”

I nodded. Of course I liked movies. Most of them were gone now. Rare stashes of films could be found and if we were lucky we’d find something to play them on.

Captain Sandy smiled a rare smile at me. “Sometimes I’m floating along above this all, all of this and I start thinking about Blade Runner and then my mind goes to Casablanca or off to Princess Bride then to In the Heat of the Night. I can run them all in my head, every line, every scene, every music score.”

I told him I did the same. We tend not to talk a lot about the time before the end of the world, but occasionally it comes out. We can’t deny our past. We just can’t help it.

“What did you do before, you know, the end of the world?” I asked the Captain point blank.

“I was a high school physics teacher. Physics and engineering to be exact. What did you do?”

“I produced reality TV shows. The last one was for MTV. Did you ever see Love Bytes?”

He laughed. “That was you? All of my students watched that show. Geeks and romance. A lot of them wanted to be on the show.”

The sky gradually started to turn dark. In the distance we could see lightning strike and the silhouettes of other airships.

I hugged my child and put a blanket around his shoulders. Aaron put his head on my lap and fell asleep. Captain Sandy sang softly a song that we both knew so long ago.

It seemed we’d been here for centuries, only the children aging and growing up.

As a rule we didn’t speak much of what we missed or how much. It was always there in the back of our minds. I missed skinny jeans and sweaters. I missed short tight dresses and yoga at the gym. I missed the music. I missed my friends and family. I missed my job. I even missed the orange trees in my back yard and the sound of the garbage truck at 6:45 am on Thursday mornings. I missed it all.

Captain Sandy turned suddenly and looked at me as if he could read my mind. “Don’t think of how things used to be. Don’t think of why we’re here.”

We both knew why we were here. Nobody wanted us. There was no place for us in Heaven but nobody in Hell wanted us either.

“You’ve got to admit,” the Captain continued, “we’re in a unique position. No matter how bad it looks, this is our world. I spent 18 years teaching kids to understand the building blocks of the universe. I thought I was contributing to the future of our young people so that they would make the world a better place.”

“Now it doesn’t matter,” I said in a rare show of depression over the events that brought us here.

“No. Now it matters more than ever. This is our world. Despite the shadows and ghouls, this is our world now, free and clear. We can still use the building blocks of science and art to make it the place we want it to be. Finally we can do it right.”

“You’re always such an optimist Captain Sandy but do you really believe that?”

“Of course I do. What other choice do I have?”

“You have a point,” I said, noticing the spark in his eyes.

He noticed that I’d noticed. “Look at this as the ultimate reality TV show.”

“If that is the case then who, Captain Sandy, gets the hot girl at the end?”

He smiled. “That depends on you.” Then he turned his face away from me to where I could only see the moon lit reflection of the scars that traced his jawline.

The crew of the airship came up on deck to view the stars and take in the night air. It was good to see them laugh and talk freely of the destination ahead. My son raised his sleepy head and laughed too. Maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. Maybe Captain Sandy would win the game and get the girl. I had a pretty good feeling he would.

 

~ Juliette Kings 2014

 

Ready to Fly

 

Coming Soon...

Coming Soon…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternate Routes

My kids love to laugh about my driving, or at least the many times we’ve taken the scenic route due to wrong turns and missed turns and complete turn arounds.

Years ago I was traveling across England by myself. I was going from I believe Banbury to Bath. When I stopped at my connection I had no idea which train to get on. None of the signs said Bath. None of the signs looked like any English I’d ever seen. So I asked a man in  the window, the ticket man, where I should go. He asked me to repeat myself. I just assumed he couldn’t understand my American accent. Then I asked him to repeat his directions to me three times. I couldn’t understand a word he said. The accent was local but I wasn’t even sure where local was. The connection name sounded long and I was going to Bath, which is short. So I took my chances on a train that was going to a town with a 34 letter name (or so it seemed.) The only other people on the train was a happy group of Italians who spoke no English at all. At the time I only knew a few words in Italian. What I did get from them was that they were not sure where they were going either. I could have ended up anywhere. At that point it didn’t seem to even matter. It was a happy ride despite the bitter January cold. The train finally stopped, in Bath.

I think of all the wrong turns I’ve taken in my life. Some have been scary, some frustrating, some filled with wonderful surprises.

I wanted to be an actress, a writer of children’s books, a clothing designer, an illustrator of Gothic fantasy, a stand up comic, a writer of best selling novels and so many other things, but ended up taking wrong turns.

Then again, I write an odd Vampire blog, my short stories have a following, I’m an illustrator, an artist, a lover, a wife, a mom, and someone who is about to yell at the cat for sticking his fuzzy face in my coffee.

The detours, be it to a giant hole in the ground, a park, an unexpected view or a new friend are worth those wrong turns. Maybe not so much wrong turns as alternate routes.

The destinations in life are great, but I do love the journey, even if i don’t know where I’m going most of the time. I’m a good traveler on this road of life.

Join me. It will be fun and I always like the company.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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